Module QXE-3028:
Literature in the Community

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Helen Wilcox

Overall aims and purpose

The Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to writers whose work has ‘made a difference’ in society – but how does literature achieve this? This module explores the role of literature as it has been perceived over the centuries, and addresses the fundamental question about its impact in the community: ‘can literature make a difference to people’s lives – and if so, how?’ In the first six weeks of the module, the possible functions of literature are explored through the study of imaginative and theoretical texts, as well as through an investigation of the aspirations of writers themselves at different historical moments. Students are encouraged to develop a nuanced sense of the variety of models by which the place of literature in society can be understood.

In the second half of the semester, a weekly one-hour seminar and the study groups continue, but the other classes give way to project fieldwork, through which students are given the opportunity to test the relationship of ideals to practice. The North Wales context offers particularly interesting opportunities for interactive work, including listening and learning in a richly bilingual context. Likely student projects include organising reading or writing groups, creating listening libraries, hosting story-telling workshops, organising a poetry reading, developing web-based literary projects, conducting reading-aloud workshops in schools and old people’s homes, and using reading to advance literacy and encourage responses to literature among community groups such as book clubs and senior citizens’ cafés.

Course content

During the first six weeks of the semester, the lectures/seminars introduce a range of theoretical and practical approaches to the functions of literature. These range historically from classical and medieval principles via Renaissance pragmatism to Romantic idealism, and from Victorian reading communities to contemporary book clubs. The discussions will also open up the most significant debates concerning the sociology of literature and the impact of reading, writing and performing texts. Where possible, guest speakers with experience of community projects related to literature will contribute to the classes in the first half of the semester. When the module was run for second-year students (in 2013-15), invited guests included the North Wales co-ordinator for The Reader Organisation, the chief executive of a local charity, the editor of a series of poetry pamphlets for dementia sufferers, the community development officer for Literature Wales, and the co-ordinator of arts workshops in a probation hostel.

The seminars and study groups act as a focus for discussion throughout the semester, mingling practical insights with the study of fictional explorations of the impact of literary texts (such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip and Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader) and instances of literature at work in the community (such as Mickey B, the film of a reworking of Macbeth inside a top-security prison). In the second half of the semester, students pursue their own (relatively modest) community-based projects alongside the continuing seminars and study groups. These projects can be undertaken in pairs or small groups, but all written work is prepared and assessed individually.

Assessment Criteria

excellent

Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:Typically, the work of a first class candidate will show many of the following qualities:

• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought or method

C- to C+

Typically, work graded C- to C+ (or 50 to 59) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas, but without much confidence • A respectable effort but not showing any unusual talent; a few flashes of originality here and there • Makes reference to the subject in question, but some important matters not mentioned • Fairly clear thought on most occasions, and the arguments relevant on the whole • Evidence of having read some works associated with the field in question • Quite accurate expression, though the points may sometimes be presented clumsily • Signs of conscientious work deserve a higher position within the class • Evidence of planning in the answers, but a lack of coherence at times; undisciplined and unsure at times

threshold

Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative

good

Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class

Learning outcomes

  1. At the end of the module, students should be able to understand and participate actively in the debates about the role and functions of literature raised by the theoretical and literary texts studied in the course of the module.

  2. By the end of the module, students should be able to put into applied practice the concepts concerning the role and functions of literature studied theoretically in the course of the module, by carrying out a short project putting literature to work in the community.

  3. By the end of the module, students should be able to analyse a range of imaginative and polemical texts, from a variety of historical periods, which address the role of literature in society.

  4. At the end of the module, students should be familiar with a range of theories concerning the functions of literature in the community.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Mid-term assessed essay 40
REPORT Project report 40
INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION final project presentation 20

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Study group
  1. Study groups – 11 x 1-hour study group (one per week throughout)
11
Seminar
  1. Seminars / interactive sessions – 11 x 2-hour seminars (one per week throughout)
22
Private study 157
Fieldwork
  1. Project fieldwork – total of 10 hours (the equivalent of 2 hours fieldwork per week) during weeks 7-11
10

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.3; 3.1.7; 3.1.11; 3.2.8).
  • Command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.9; 3.2.6).
  • Broad knowledge of literature and the distinctive characters of texts written in the principal literary genres of fiction, poetry and drama, and of other kinds of writing and communication (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.1; 3.1.1; 3.1.2).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis and the ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.2; 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.5; 3.3.8; 3.3.12; 3.3.13).
  • Information technology and time management and organization skills, as shown by the ability to plan and present conclusions effectively (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.14; 3.3.15).
  • Rhetorical skills of effective communication and argument, both oral and written (English Benchmark Statement 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.5; 3.3.1; 3.3.6).
  • The ability to work with and in relationship to others through the presentation of ideas and information and the collective negotiation of solutions (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.10).
  • Sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects upon communication of circumstances, authorship, textual production and intended audience (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.8; 2.3.; 3.1.2; 3.2.3).
  • The capacity for independent thought and judgement; the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories and to interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.2; 3.3.1; 3.3.7; 3.3.11).
  • Responsiveness to the central role of language in the creation of meaning and a sensitivity to the affective power of language (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.5; 1.3.8; 3.1.5; 3.1.11; 3.2.4).
  • The ability to comprehend and develop intricate concepts in an open-ended way which involves an understanding of purpose and consequences (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 3.3.9).
  • Understanding of how cultural norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.6; 3.1.7; 3.2.9).
  • Recognition of the multi-faceted nature of literature, and of its complex relationship to other media or disciplines and forms of knowledge (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.7; 2.1; 2.2; 2.4; 2.5; 3.1.8; 3.1.12).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of texts (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.2.1; 3.3.8; 3.3.12).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.6).
  • Conceptual skills developed by demonstration and discussion. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.2; 3.3.14; 3.3.17; 3.3.18; 3.3.19).
  • Study skills in researching concepts and contexts by directed reading. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.22; 3.3.23).
  • The ability to express ideas clearly in discussion and in organised written form. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.3.11; 3.3.15; 3.3.16; 3.3.21; 3.3.24).
  • The ability to analyse texts, using appropriate critical terminology. ( English Benchmark Statement 3.1.8; 3.2.1; 3.2.6; 3.3.12).
  • The ability to situate texts in intertextual debate and as responses to and interventions in contemporary culture. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.7; 3.1.10; 3.1.11; 3.2.3; 3.2.8).
  • Communicate effectively in interpersonal settings, in writing and in a variety of media; engagement with forms of critical analysis, argument and debate, expressed through an appropriate command of oral, written and other forms of communication (Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmark 6.1.5; 8.2.6).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work; bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions in the presentation of scholarly work and the ability to engage in processes of drafting and redrafting texts to achieve clarity of expression and an appropriate style; making use, as appropriate, of a problem-solving approach (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.7; 3.3.4; 3.3.6; Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmark 6.1.7).
  • Broad knowledge of a range of texts, genres, aesthetic forms and cultural practices, and the ability to produce close analysis of these and of the uses and implications of these approaches; an understanding of particular media forms and genres, and the way in which they organize understandings, meanings and affects (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.1; 3.1.1; 3.1.2; Communication, Media, Film and Cultural Studies benchmarks 4.1.5; 8.2.5).
  • Ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to English studies.
  • Bibliographic skills appropriate to the discipline, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of conventions in the presentation of scholarly work.
  • Knowledge of a wide range of canonical English texts, providing a confident understanding of literary traditions as well as the confidence to experiment and challenge conventions when writing creatively. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • The ability to synthesize information from various sources, choosing and applying appropriate concepts and methods (English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to formulate and solve problems, anticipate and accommodate change, and work within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Information technology (IT) skills broadly understood and the ability to access, work with and evaluate electronic resources (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).

Resources

Resource implications for students

Minimal book purchase (comparable with other equivalent modules) alongside continuing use of the Norton Anthology. The DBS checks are free of charge for students.

Reading list

Books for purchase (in addition to the Norton Anthology which students already have by this stage of their studies): Astley, Neil (ed.), Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 2002) Byatt, A.S., Possession (London: Vintage, 1991) Jones, Lloyd, Mister Pip (London: John Murray, 2007) Macmillan, Angela (ed.), A Little, Aloud (London: Chatto and Windus, 2010) Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader, transl. Carol Brown Janeway (London: Phoenix, 1997) Shakespeare, William, Macbeth (in a good annotated edition such as Arden, Oxford or Cambridge)

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: